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THE Game

THE Game

Football is in High Season right now. It’s become enmeshed in headlines: kneeling, concussions, NFL attendance are all loudly flamed. But it’s also the time of championships, pro playoff debates and season-ending “rivalry games.”

I find an odd connection with the sport of football and faith in religion. Quite personally, for me, there is an intimate connection to the sport. I played, coached, and one son played all the way through college. The scale and hype of Big Time Football leaves me cold. But similarly, for this Cradle Episcopalian “Churchman,” church and churchiness leaves me cold, too.

However, the love I feel…

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Skin in the Game

Skin in the Game

Wherever you get your news, you have surely read about (or skipped over) the ongoing National Anthem disputes among NFL teams on game day, a controversy fanned ever higher by President Trump’s continued Twitter-complaints about it. Media outlets have, of course, come around to sample their own spin on the conversation.

And then, just yesterday, news broke about the FBI sting operation on multiple NCAA men’s basketball programs, allegedly in cahoots with sportswear giant Adidas for all kinds of illegalities, not least the funneling of hundreds of thousands of dollars to high school prospects’ families, in exchange for their contracts, both…

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“It’s a Nice Day for a Run” and Other Strange Things to Say: Some Thoughts on Our Pursuit of Pain

“It’s a Nice Day for a Run” and Other Strange Things to Say: Some Thoughts on Our Pursuit of Pain

It was the closest thing to hell I’ve ever experienced: my whole body hurt. A dull buzz with epicenters at the soles of my feet, knees, and head: a red-hot pain emanating outward, into my neck, arms, down my back, through those muscles that I don’t know the name of that run from my shoulder blades to my bum…whatever those are, they hurt. I sat down. I stood up. I walked in aimless circles, drank water. Nothing helped. After running along the James River that day, 26.2 throbbing miles along that winding golden ribbon, the only thing I remember about…

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The Lord’s Football

The Lord’s Football

It’s the end of summer. It’s the beginning of the fall academic sports season. But it is yet hot, humid, and athletic bodies are in full assault. No matter the sport, it’s preseason. It’s a time of shock, sweat, blood, swelling, and stiffness. It is a time no old athlete forgets, and most wince at the memory. Those engaged are without perspective—they are all coping amid the pain.

Panicked reports abound of summer practice deaths, concussions, fatal lightning strikes and the bemoaning of the depletion of teams by one-sport athletes are common to the point of cliché. Not so…

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Everybody Touch Somebody: Glory & Grace in Last Chance U

Everybody Touch Somebody: Glory & Grace in Last Chance U

The very first shot of the second season of Netflix’s documentary series Last Chance U shows a hot Mississippi sun peeking out through trees. The second shot is of a small church near the rural town of Scooba. The third shot is also of a church, while the audio of a preacher addressing his congregation plays as a voice-over. “As the coach watched himself on that screen, he didn’t like what he saw” expounds the voice-over, referencing the show’s first season. “Can you imagine if a documentary was made about your life? And they followed you, the good the bad,…

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Downer Darko

As Martin Luther reminds us, the thirst for glory is not ended by satisfying it, but by extinguishing it (paraphrase). Few men have had that thirst more publicly and painfully extinguished than Darko Milicic, the 2nd pick in the 2003 NBA Draft – right after Lebron. And before All-Stars Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade, Josh Howard, David West and two others whom you can go look up if you like. Milicic is widely considered the greatest NBA bust of all time, a joke and cautionary tale. Imagine carrying that burden – Biggest Failure of All Time – everywhere you go, forever. Ouch.

All of which is why I was drawn to a recent article on Darko. Turns out he’s doing pretty well. As he puts it:

I kind of feel like Old Darko died. Like, when I think about myself, or myself when I was playing, I feel like I’m sort of thinking about someone who is dead.

Yes, he still has a sizable portion of the 50+ million dollars he made playing basketball (I chose the wrong profession), but he also has assets infinitely more valuable: a loving family, a sense of humor, something to live for, and some perspective. I won’t spoil the ending, but Jesus figures prominently in this man’s ability to accept himself as-is. May we all be so blessed, whether we succeed or fail.

 

Football At Last: A Preseason Preview

Football At Last: A Preseason Preview

NFL preseason games start next week….

The airwaves are crackling hype at the advent of NFL team summer camps. Every year, about a million young men and a hundred or more young women play tackle football at every level. They’re all starting the season about now. 

Fewer than 2,000 of those players are in the National Football League. The NFL is a forced marriage of sports and show biz, but it’s our only national platform for those of us who are hopelessly devoted to a sport that changed our early lives. Having played, coached, and been a part of a son’s…

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I am Bartman

I am Bartman

I’m not sure what else there is to say about this. When I heard about Steve Bartman getting a 2016 World Series ring from the Chicago Cubs yesterday, I got a little choked up, and I wasn’t sure why. I’m not a Cubs fan. In fact, I rooted pretty hard against them last season. Where was my emotional reaction coming from? (This actually happens all of the time, but it always comes from left field.) I then thought about that little self-description that I once put in my Twitter profile years ago: “self-deceived, loved, shunned, cherished, left for dead, rescued,…

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"Snarky Sox" on a Plane and Dragging the Lake for an Earring: First World Problems in Professional Sports

“Snarky Sox” on a Plane and Dragging the Lake for an Earring: First World Problems in Professional Sports

Well this is disturbing. My favorite current/active athlete in any sport (Julio Jones, wide receiver, Atlanta Falcons), and my favorite all-time athlete from my high school (!) (MLB Hall-of-Famer Dennis Eckersley) are both in the news today for having excessively first-world problems. Ugh.

I love Julio. I’ve lived in Atlanta since 1990, and for the last 27 years, I’ve been hopelessly devoted to the Atlanta Falcons. I have consistently missed church events on Sunday afternoons in the Fall (some of which I was supposed to be leading) in order to just be left alone in front of my TV to watch the…

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Shame as a Motivational Technique

Shame as a Motivational Technique

In Tom Verducci’s entertaining book, The Cub’s Way: The Zen of Building the Best Team in Baseball and Breaking the Curse, he describes an incident very early in skipper Joe Maddon’s career. In 1986, Maddon was managing the Double-A Midland Angels in Texas. They were a bad team who had just suffered another bad loss. Maddon was apoplectic. He found a newspaper stand, purchased a variety of papers, and began cutting out the classified ads. Later, he taped up these “Help Wanted” advertisements all over the clubhouse, including on the backs of bathroom stalls. The message was clear: “If you’re…

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The NBA Finals, Finally

The NBA Finals, Finally

The NBA playoffs have come to their long awaited climax: the third straight Finals matchup between the Cavaliers and Warriors. Neither team has been slowed down at all thus far. The Warriors are 12-0 and the Cavs are 12-1. The average margin of victory across the playoffs has been a disappointingly wide 13.5 points, and both teams made quick work of their conference finals foes – including 30+ point beat downs of the Spurs and Celtics, respectively. So there’s a lot of pressure on this series to deliver.

Still, there have been some memorable moments in these playoffs: the electric first round matchup of…

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From the Archives: Thy Jilted Lover Shall Rejoice (Again)?

From the Archives: Thy Jilted Lover Shall Rejoice (Again)?

In anticipation of the third NBA Finals meeting (in a row!) between the Warriors and Cavs, we thought this might be a timely one to resurface from last year’s series. 

Don’t look now but Loserville–the “mistake on the lake” that is Cleveland Ohio–is about to improbably get their NBA championship. The stars are aligning around the Cleveland Cavaliers. It’s really pretty incredible. We had anointed the Golden State Warriors repeat NBA champions back in February, while they were on their way to the best NBA regular season of all-time. Stephen Curry had supplanted Lebron as the best player on the planet….and…

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